In anime, we often see a character very focused on their writing. As they move away, we get a clear picture of a monotone scroll that holds a beautiful lettering. The work of art on this paper is known as Japanese calligraphy and is an extremely important part of Japanese culture. More commonly known as shodo, Japanese calligraphy has become known worldwide as one of the most beautiful and complex forms of writing that has not only been in place as a writing system but also has become a widely respected art form. Taking years of practice, there are few that can truly become masters of shodo as the way the brush strokes are laid out can only be done by a hand that has had many years of practice in the rhythm and painting skill that is Japanese calligraphy.
Japan was able to form a complex form of writing unique to their society in the 6th century. The individual characters, known as kanji were evolved from the more simplistic and earlier hiragana and katakana scripts. The script of the Japanese people advanced beyond just a simple means of communication and blossomed into an art form and way to achieve harmony and wisdom in your life. Japanese calligraphy is often seen as a way to practice spirituality as well and a way to achieve beauty in your life. To achieve this wondrous skill there are four tools used: the ink, paper inkstone and brush. These tools and techniques have remained relatively unchanged for centuries.
Modern Day Japanese Calligraphy
Japanese calligraphy is still practiced in Japan today. There are three main writing styles which include Kaisho, Gyosho and Sosho. Tensho and Reisho are less commonly known. Students generally learn the Kaisho writing style first because it is the most elaborate and traditional. From there they can evolve their own style from learning some of the subsequent styles. There are many schools in which you can learn Japanese calligraphy and it is widely done throughout Japan. However, there are few that pursue it as a lifelong art. While everyone in Japan learns kanji, the more advanced and technical schools are highly regarded. They may seem dated to us, but Japanese calligraphy is a respected and important part of Japanese culture even today.
While we can all recognize Japanese calligraphy when we see it in anime, few of us are actually aware of the centuries of history that are behind it. The Chinese brought many arts and important practices that are now very relevant in Japanese culture to them in the 6th century. We can still admire both the Japanese and the Chinese for the similarities and find it interesting to compare and contrast them. Japanese calligraphy has evolved into an art form unlike any other and the deep black strokes of the ink paint themselves inside our brain as a sort of meditative and alluring art that we as a western world may never truly understand.